Recent research published in the American Ceramic Society's Bulletin magazine has shown that a particular borate glass composition can be used to form cottony glass fibers to mimic the structure of fibrin, in turn supporting the wound healing process.
According to a related report by Medical News Today, bioglass materials are not new to the medical field but thus far they have been formed from a silica-based glass composition for use in hard tissue regeneration, such as bone repair. However, co-developers Steve Jung, PhD, and Delbert Day, a professor, both from the Missouri University of Science and Technology, noted from in vitro studies that bioactive glasses containing boron reacted to body fluids faster than silicate glasses. This led them to wonder whether a different bioactive glass material could be used for soft tissue repair and regeneration.
The researchers also found that lithium borate glasses showed beneficial effects against bacteria such as E. coli, salmonella and staphylococcus microbes. Further, the materials were rich in calcium; and as Jung commented in the report, previous investigators have found calcium to be important for wound healing as it appears to assist in the migration of epidermal cells to help regulate the healing process.
Besides the material's composition, its structure was important to consider as it would need to provide a "scaffold." The researchers believed that if the material that could mimic the microstructure of fibrin, it might trap blood platelets and allow the formation of a wound cover that could support the healing process. Therefore, a particular borate glass composition called 13-93B3 glass was chosen and Mo-Sci, a company founded by Day, formed it into cottony glass fibers 300 nm to 5 μm in diameter. After animal tests showed no adverse effects, the company obtained a license from the university and produced the borate glass material, named "DermaFuse."
Peggy Taylor, a registered nurse at the Phelps County Regional Medical Center (PCRMC) in Rolla, Missouri, reportedly tested the material by applying pads of the borate glass nanofibers to the wounds of 12 venous stasis volunteers, which sped up the healing process of their long-term wounds. Taylor noted, in a Science Daily report, that the pads were easy to apply and could be formed to any shape needed. Interestingly, she also observed that over time, the glass fibers seemed to disappear—a phenomenon that has been observed with other bioglasses.
Taylor acknowledged that while the wounds would have probably healed under her care without the glass material, they would have required expensive vacuum-assisted healing systems. In addition, the glass fibers seemed to drastically reduce scarring. The next step is expanded human trials this summer, which reportedly will be conducted in partnership with the Center for Wound Healing and Tissue Regeneration at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
This material could potentially be used by battlefield medics or emergency medical technicians to provide first aid with these glass fibers that simultaneously slow bleeding, fight bacteria (and other sources of infection) and stimulate the body's natural healing mechanisms. In addition, it could be used to treat diabetics suffering from hard-to-heal wounds. Beyond health benefits, the wound healing and reduced scarring mechanisms are interesting for the cosmetics industry and suggest new concepts relevant to skin care and anti-aging treatments in general.